I often, when developing my own recipes, go through many attempts to get one right. This is a new series on one I am working on. You’ll get to see them in progress as I try to achieve perfection.
Let me put this out there right off the bat: I fucking love palomas. They’re among the simplest of cocktails (tequila and grapefruit soda with a lime) and the tastiest. They please serious cocktail lovers and your average 11 p.m. barfly equally. Women love them. Men love them. They’re the Tom Hanks of cocktails. I don’t know why there isn’t one on every cocktail menu.
So one of the things I’ve been meaning to do with my newfound modernist toolkit is make a bad-ass paloma. Clarification and carbonation skills are really about all you need, and both of those are quite simple in this case. Grapefruit is pretty easy to clarify for a citrus. (See my Gin and Juice post for instructions.) It’s also great for batching, especially in a carbonated drink, because it doesn’t degrade like other citrus fruits. I’ve stored a gin and grapefruit juice with it for a week and it was perfectly fine. Dave Arnold says it even freezes well.
Making the soda myself should yield a much higher quality drink than simply buying Fresca, Jarritos, or what have you. While not bad, even the best commercial brands still don’t taste quite like fresh grapefruit. You also can’t really mix the ingredients without flattening the carbonation a bit, and most store-bought beverages aren’t bubbly enough for my taste to begin with. Using modernist techniques I should be able to get a bubblier, better tasting drink than anything you can get otherwise.
The process was pretty straightforward. I had some agar-clarified grapefruit juice leftover from my holiday party gin and juice. So I took a shot at my own paloma.
I wanted to try out acid phosphate, and I’m glad I did. I love this stuff! It adds a little brightness without the bitterness inherent to acids like lime and lemon. I might try mixing in a tiny amount of malic acid next time.
Here’s the first take on the recipe.
12 oz. agar-clarified grapefruit juice
2 oz. agave nectar
4 oz. Tequila (I used Olmecca Altos Reposado)
6 oz. water
1 oz. Aperol
1 dropper saline solution
12 drops acid phosphate
Mix, chill, carbonate, serve in Collins glass with lime wedge and straw. Makes about 4 glasses. (I expected two but wasn’t accounting for how much ice is in a Collins glass).
1. Might want to add a little clarified lime juice next time. This is one of the hardest things to do at home, since quick agar clarification without a centrifuge is a huge pain in the ass. I need to invest in a salad spinner anyway, since I want to do every Liquid Intelligence recipe for this blog and that’s one of them. I’m not sure it’s necessary; the acid phosphate is quite good at providing a little more tartness to the grapefruit juice. But it’d be good to try. Just having the drinker squeeze the wedge in worked fine though.
2. Might want to use a Blanco tequila next time. (Or maybe chitosan/gellan wash the Reposado? Would that give you a better flavor with a clearer color?) The initial coloration was an unappealing brown since the grapefruit juice is nearly clear. I added the Aperol for both color and flavor (I love the way it pairs with grapefruit) and I love the flavor, but the color is still not quite there. May have to swap out the agave nectar for fructose for the same reason. I’m not sure I would have felt the need to add the Aperol if I had used a Blanco, but I’m glad I did and will probably keep it.
3. I need to get a better measurement system for the acid phosphate. I think I should scale it. I love what it did for the flavor for sure. But the drops that come out of the bottle seem widely variable. My guess is this is about 1/4 oz. in this one. I’ll do better on that score next time. ChefSteps recommends 0.05%-0.1% phosphoric acid (not exactly the same as acid phosphate, but close) so I’ll try that. I also might dial it up just a notch if I don’t add clari-lime. Before the lime wedge went in, the drink wasn’t quite balanced, though maybe I should just allow for the fact that the drinker is likely to squeeze in a lime regardless.
4. It tasted good, but needed more tequila. I think next time I’ll just omit the water. Carbonated drinks always taste overly-diluted before you bubble it, but I think I had done some math wrong. I was aiming for 15% ABV and ended up at 6%.
Next time I’ll try
8 oz tequila
12 oz clarified grapefruit
1 oz Aperol
2 oz Agave nectar